A tightly buttoned, trigenerational family drama, Patricia Ferreira’s worthy but dull “Something to Remember Me By” paradoxically manages to explore emotional depths without transmitting emotional force. Pic features a decent script and performances, but is let down by a misconceived central role and its genteel approach, creating a somewhat airless feel. Pic’s themes of memory and forgetfulness will resonate in Spain, as the country still struggles to negotiate the political complexities of its past, but such considerations will mean little offshore.
Divorced legit director Irene (Emma Vilarasau), working on a blind production of Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” lives at home with her elderly father, Mateo (Fernando Fernan-Gomez), who lost his parents in the Civil War; and her son, David (fresh-faced Roger Coma), who’s studying architecture. David has a thing going with supermarket checkout girl Clara (Marta Etura), of whom Irene disapproves. When Irene fails to turn up at a dinner where David was to introduce Clara, David angrily leaves home and shacks up with Clara.
After David is killed in a car accident, Mateo discovers the younger man was writing Mateo’s own life story. Now Mateo in turn starts writing David’s story. While Irene unsuccessfully struggles to forget her son, the emotionally concussed Clara sleeps with a nerdy supermarket colleague, Antonio (Victor Mosqueira, good) at the instigation of her friend, Ana (Monica Garcia).
Occasional subtle moments in the script raise important questions about the awkward balance to be struck between remembering and forgetting, but its schematic desire to get this message across leaves the movie wanting for emotion. Irene’s unattractive propensity to blame others for her confusions creates problems of identifying with the character, which thesp Vilarasau, though always competent, is unable to overcome.
Etura, who’s maturing as an actress, successfully negotiates a range of emotions in the role of Clara. But it’s the mighty, 83-year-old Fernan-Gomez who blows away all other actors when he’s onscreen — even when, as here, he’s operating at half-throttle.
Sharper editing would have supplied a stronger sense of gathering emotional force. Use of classical music in this self-consciously arty movie is mostly effective, but sometimes goes over the top, as when meatballs are kneaded to the strains of a Puccini aria.